Texas Tech v. Texas
As I mentioned when I got home last night, I am happy with the moral victory after that game. As a quick rundown, we hung with the #2 team in the nation for 4 quarters, held their offense to its lowest home output of 340 yards since 2007 against KSU (also 340 yards), and I really saw something out of this team that I hoped for but wasn’t sure of. I really don’t want to sound like I’m just trying to spin sunshine, but I honestly have to believe that this TTU team is better than a lot of people picked them to be.
Read on after the break for my positional breakdown
Taylor Potts had a great day, considering. I think that a lot of the grades that I’m giving are based on expectations vs performance and Pott’s grade is. Next year, if he has a 3 td, 1 int day against UT, I’d probably grade that a C, but this year, I’m ecstatic with that state line. That was one of my biggest question marks going into this game, "How will Taylor Potts handle his first road start in a hostile environment?" He handled it great, especially since he was being hit pretty much every play and was bouncing right back up. I think I’ve officially joined the Taylor Potts fan club.
If I have any complaint about the QB last night, it’s that he displayed a bit of a lack of situational awareness. I’m mainly talking about that set of series to start the 4th quarter where nothing really happened. I felt that Taylor failed to recognize that UT was bringing all-out pressure at that point and that before then, we had been tearing holes in the UT defense with the dink and dunk offense. It seemed like Potts was looking to go deep, 15+ yards down the field on his pick, fumble, and over half of the other plays in that series. Take what the defense gives you and we take advantage of the stop and punt or McCoy’s pick.
All that said, I still give Taylor an A for his performance on the night. Well deserved.
All I can really say about the RB’s is that they were pretty much completely ineffective on the night. There was 1 18 yard run by Baron and a 12 yard run by Stephens, and outside of that, they never got going. It may have been the oline’s fault, but they’re also getting a poor score on the evening. Even in the passing game, the backs did nothing. And Batch, on the two catches where he looked like he had some room or at least a one-man-to-beat situation, he fumbled, losing one. I’m most disappointed that we didn’t see any of Harrison Jeffers. I’m not sure if he was held out for effort/disciplinary reasons or just because Stephens and Batch are much better in pass protection than him, but I was not happy to see him on the sideline.
I think we had the most room for running from the 2 back set. I really like the concept of handing off to one back while the other one leads. We ran from that set twice that I can remember, each going for short yardage, but I thought I saw the potential for bigger gains from there. I don’t like the 2 TE set anymore because, in order to run from that set, we have to also have a threat to throw. We just don’t have the personnel for that to be an effective formation and we won’t until we get a TE that can block and catch.
I think this is going to be the #1 thing for our coaches to figure out, how do we break open holes in our running game. Yes, it’s called the air raid and we live and die by the pass, but I don’t believe that our offense will play to its best potential until we can consistently gash defenses when they only have 6 men in the box. I give the unit an F and it makes me very sad to do so
We have a very young crew of receivers. I’m pretty sure Lewis was still hampered by his hamstring and he didn’t see many reps, yet I don’t think our receiving corps missed a beat. I loved the constant rotation of receivers and that combined with our no-huddle we ran all night, caused headaches for UT all night long. I think Eddy B had a great makeup game for his drops and had the block of the night on a Zouzalik out route. Leong just knows how to score TD’s and Torres had his high in receptions for the year. I also don’t see what the vitriol for Jacoby Franks is. He had a drop (one of only 2-3 I can remember) early and he had the PI call late (that I think was just as phantom as Crabtree’s PI last year), but aside from that, he turned in his career performance in catches and yards.
I must reiterate that we have an incredibly young group of receivers. I’m giving them a score of A- on the night. The minus is because they did allow themselves to be bumped off of their routes, held up, or gave up on their routes once they felt they had been interfered with.
I think we saw 3 different types of offensive lines last night. The first, was the line that was being blown up and unable to create holes in the defense against a 4 man front. This was also the line that was unable to get out and deliver blocks in front of the backs on screens. We only saw them about 12 plays, but they didn’t do much for us.
The second OL we saw was the OL that was able to withstand 5, 6, and even 7 man rushes to give Taylor just enough time to get the ball into the hands of his receivers 5-15 yards down the field. I like this line.
The third line that we saw was the line that committed false starts and missed blocking assignments and got blown by on speed rushes. This line only reared its ugly head when we were backed up deep near the north endzone or when we were approaching that same endzone going the other direction. While the first offensive line certainly contributes, this is the line that earned a D for their performance.
I’m still impressed with the youth and depth of our line. Oakafor and Edwards are both sophomores and are both solid, despite their false start mistakes. I think Olson’s future is at center (an odd change from LT to center), so the questions next year will be at LT and RT and I’m confident we’ll have that figured out.
We started this season with 4 DE’s. We took 1 of those to Austin with us. Your 4 DE’s for last night’s game (as determined by the DE warmup group): Daniel Howard – DE – 6’3" 240#; Jonathan Brydon – LB – 6’3" 220#; David Neill – DT – 6’5" 280#; Britton Barbee – DT – 6’2" 296#. Now, in the game, I think we saw the most of Bront Bird playing 3-technique or stand-up end, and Richard Jones, a DT, also lining up at end. I must say that this line unit did an exceptional job considering. Early in the game we stopped up their running game very well and got fair pressure on the QB once we started running stunts and twists in the line. Only one sack but 8 tackles for loss including 3 by Bront Bird.
I have to hand it to the coaching staff. They did the best with what they had and it worked until the 2nd half when UT finally figured out that we were backing our ends to make up for our lack of depth there and leaving the middle of the field without a 2nd level of defender. For what we had and what we were missing, this unit is deserving of that A grade.
The linebackers did a solid job all night. I can only recall them getting outright beat 2-3 times, once on the long Chiles run and twice by Buckner, the Longhorns pseudo-TE. Good game by the backers and very little that I can say about their performance
For a solid night, they get an A but they get a minus tacked on for the missed plays and lack of stops in the 3rd and 4th quarters and a plus for Bront Bird’s ability to play end respectably. So again, A.
On the one hand, our DBs didn’t get beat deep all night. On the other hand, we gave up a lot of underneath catches and 3rd down conversions because of how soft we were playing. I know that was a coaching decision, but I think that it was the wrong one. Our defensive line wasn’t going to be able to come up with the big play and so I don’t see why we shouldn’t try to put our backs in positions to force pass breakups and ints of their own. We pulled down 2 picks off of tipped balls, but because of the yards given up underneath, the unit earns a B.
I’m going to break this up by play type. Kick returns get an A, and I think this is the aspect of the game that Stephens made his greatest impact (not to downplay his in-pocket blocking). They kicked to Stephens every time and every time he took the ball up to the 35-40 except one. Unfortunately, half of those were called back on holding, but we’re close, and Stephens was close to breaking a few of those.
Kickoffs get a C for the night. We gave up about 30 yards per return which is not great, but acceptable. We also had that onside kick attempt that was in and out of the hands of, I think, Ed Britton. If it had worked, that would have evened the difference in the game, so I don’t mind the gamble in the least. I think the biggest keys for our kickoff team will be for Carona to continue to kick the ball deep in the endzone like we know he can (he had one touchback, one kick about 5 yards deep, and the rest of his kicks came down inside the 5), and for the coverage team to continue to get down the field even if Carona is booming kicks out of the endzone.
Punting gets an F for the night. This was the difference in the night, with Carona laying down a poor kick in the middle of the field that was returned for the only TD of the first half. The rest of the night, Erxleben punted for us, kicking a long of 46 but only an average of 38. On the other hand, he also kicked away from Shipley who only got 1 more return for -2 yards.
Punt returns get an incomplete for the night seeing as we never touched one of his punts. It seems like Eric Russell has just as much trouble figuring out that rugby punt as Clay McGuire did. UT has one hell of a punter, though.
Overall, this unit was the difference in the night. UT had that punt return for a touchdown and that was basically the difference in the game. On the plus side, Matt Williams kicked his career long of 41 yards. Way to go Matt. F for the rest of them, though.